- The Washington Times
Friday, March 9, 2018

Martin Shkreli, the so-called “pharma bro” who jacked up the price of a lifesaving drug and enraged Congress, was sentenced Friday to seven years in prison for defrauding investors.

U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto handed down the punishment after Shkreli reportedly cried in the courtroom and apologized to investors for betraying their trust.

Shkreli’s sentence is short of the 15 years that prosecutors sought, yet far beyond the 18 months that his lawyers considered to be fair.

Prior to sentencing, Shkreli was ordered to forfeit more than $7 million and the sole copy of a Wu-Tang Clan record, “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin,” for which he reportedly paid $2 million.

A 34-year-old from Brooklyn, Shkreli openly flouted authority but was cut down in August by convictions on three counts of fraud related to a pair of hedge funds he managed, MSMB Capital and MSMB Healthcare.

Prosecutors said he lied about the funds’ performance and used money from Retrophin, a pharmaceutical company he founded in 2011, to cover his tracks in a Ponzi-like scheme.

His main legacy, though, will be as the poster boy for soaring drug prices and his brash, frat-like personality online, which earned him the moniker “pharma bro.”

As CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, he acquired a decades-old drug in 2015 and increased the price more than fifty-fold, from $13.50 per pill to $750. The drug, Daraprim, treats a condition that affects HIV patients and other people with weakened immune systems.

The backlash to Shkreli’s unapologetic stance was severe, with consumer advocates and members of Congress accusing him of immoral gouging.

It also kicked off a closer look at drug prices on Capitol Hill.

Suddenly, lawmakers pored over similar price hikes of newly acquired drugs and chastised the maker of EpiPens — lifesaving epinephrine injectors for allergy sufferers — after parents noticed the price had risen from $100 in 2009 to more than $600 in 2016.

The fallout prompted its manufacturer, Mylan, to settle claims it shortchanged taxpayers by misclassifying the EpiPen as a generic instead of a brand-name product under Medicaid’s rebate program.

Shkreli, meanwhile, resigned from Turing after his arrest on the unrelated fraud charges.

Yet House investigators hauled him before Congress in early 2016 to explain his price hikes, leading to a tense showdown in which Shkreli invoked his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

Members fumed, saying Shkreli was insolent and that struggling constituents back home couldn’t afford high-priced prescriptions, not to mention exclusive hip-hop records.

Shortly afterward, Shkreli blasted lawmakers from his Twitter account: “Hard to accept that these imbeciles represent the people in our government.”

His cocksure behavior continued during his trial. At one point, he walked into a room of courthouse reporters and derided his Brooklyn prosecutors as the “junior varsity.”

Shkreli has been in jail since September, awaiting sentencing. The judge revoked his bail after Shkreli offered $5,000 on social media to anyone who could bring him a lock of Hillary Clinton’s hair, as the former presidential candidate hit the road to promote her latest book.

Shkreli’s defense attorney, Benjamin Brafman, acknowledged Friday that his client could be difficult at times.

Mr. Brafman reportedly told the judge that while sometimes he’d like to hug his client, other times he’d like to punch him in the face.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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